Frederick Douglass: A Noble Life
by David Adler
Published by Holiday House
Popular biographer David A. Adler recounts the exciting life of escaped slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Born into slavery in 1818 and raised on a Maryland plantation under brutal conditions, Frederick Douglass against all odds grew up to become a famous orator, journalist, author, and advisor to U.S. presidents. Many contemporaries found it hard to believe that he was an escaped slave with no formal education. Douglass was also controversial. He urged slaves to revo0lt and befriended the abolitionist John Brown. A pivotal figure in U.S. history, he helped Abraham Lincoln issue the Emancipation Proclamation and was an ambassador to Haiti.
Adler provides an accessible introduction to the life of abolitionist and civil rights pioneer Frederick Douglass that will hopefully inspire young people to seek out Douglass' own autobiographies. Adler includes direct quotations of Douglass' own work along with research conducted through other sources, including books and newspapers from the time.
Many black and white photographs and illustrations grace the pages of the book, including portraits of Douglass and his family members, friends and contemporaries, depictions of slave life, posters, letters and newspaper clippings (including some from Douglass' own paper).
Adler's focus is primarily on Douglass' public life rather than his private life, although he does provide in-depth coverage of his childhood as a slave. Adler often lets Douglass speak for himself through his autobiographies; a wise choice since Douglass' writing is so eloquent. Of Douglass' two marriages and five children, I got just the basics. I read far more about his abolitionist activities in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to covering Douglass' life, Adler also discusses major events tied to his life, like the insurrection led by John Brown, the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
Back end materials include a timeline, chapter notes, selected bibliography and index. There are also picture credits, which (I was happy to see) are actually presented in a readable format and font size. The chapter notes are important because much of the text relies on Douglass' own autobiographies. The notes tell readers the titles and pages where each quotation can be found. Adler also provides additional interesting information (such as a portion of a letter to a Pennsylvania newspaper following the passage of the 15th Amendment) that perhaps wouldn't have fit with the main text. The selected bibliography includes a number of books and newspapers. The index is quite extensive and includes names, places, major events and many topics such as foods and religion.